The regiment was originally raised by Colonel James Ussher as Prince Maurice’s Dragoones in early September 1642 in the southern midlands. The majority of its officers, including its Lieutenant-Colonel, Henry Washington, came from Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, counties from where they raised the regiment’s men. It is possible that the regiment was ready in time to join Sir John Byron’s force and therefore took part in the combat at Powick Bridge.
The regiment, now with a strength of some 400 men, joined the King’s forces just prior to the Battle of Edgehill where they took post on the extreme right wing of the King’s army. According to Sir Richard Bulstrode’s contemporary account the regiment fought under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Washington and not Ussher at Edgehill:
In the first place, it was resolved, that Washington, with his Regiment of Dragoones, should descend the Hill, and possess some Inclosures and Briars on the right Hand of our Army.
The regiment carried out a classic dragoon action, efficiently clearing the hedges and driving in a body of commanded musketeers from Colonel Denzil Holles’, and Thomas Ballard’s regiments of foot. Having successfully secured the right wing for Prince Rupert to launch his sweeping cavalry assault, Washington kept his men well in hand and was able to support both the royalist foot, and Rupert’s cavalry when the Prince belatedly rallied his troopers. Washington’s men suffered few casualties with only a single Captain, Francis Gawdye, wounded in the thigh. The regiment remained with the King’s army in its advance on London in November. While there is no specific record of it having fought at the Battle of Brentford it is interesting to note that if it was at Brentford then Washington could have called at his home in Isleworth, only half a mile from Brentford.
On the 6th December, Washington led a detachment of the regiment at the storming of Marlborough where they supported Sir William Pennyman’s Regiment of Foot in the assault on the north-western side of the town. On the 9th of December, the full regiment, back under Colonel Ussher, entered winter quarters in the village of Burford in the Cotswolds alongside Sir John Byron’s Regiment of Horse. On the 2nd February 1643 the whole regiment left Burford to participate in the storming of Cirencester where its Major, Hutchinson, was wounded.
Next, the regiment moved north with Prince Rupert into the West Midlands, first storming Birmingham and then, on 20th April, leading the assault on Litchfield Close. It was here that Colonel Ussher was killed, leading the assault on the breach and his place at the head of the regiment was taken by Washington, who chose as his Lieutenant-Colonel, Henry Huddleston of Sawston in Cambridgeshire. Shortly after this a detachment of Washington’s Dragoones participated in the raid lead by Prince Rupert which resulted in the Battle of Chalgrove of 18th June 1643.
Uniform and Equipment, June 1643
Uniform and equipment-wise we have a good idea of the general state of the regiment in mid-1643. On 16th June the Royalist Ordnance Papers list the issue of muskets and powder bags to Captain Henry Colthorpe’s troop of Washington’s Dragoones just prior to their departure for Chalgrove. There is a slightly later record of the issue of powder, match and ball. As the regiment was part of the King’s Oxford forces at this time, it is likely it received part of Thomas Bushell’s issue of:
Souldiers Cassocks, Breeches, Stockings and Capps
According to the memoirs of Anthony A Wood, these suits were all either red or blue when issued in July 1643, with most of the blue going to regiments raised in the West. As Washington’s was a Midlands raised regiment it is most likely to have received red.
By July 1643 the regiment formed part of the King’s forces before Bristol where they highly distinguished themselves during the siege and storming. Mustering a full 7 troops, they first took Clifton Church which provided Prince Rupert with an excellent observation post just outside the City walls. Then, forming part of Wentworth’s tertio for the actual assault, Colonel Washington lead the regiment in for the successful storming of their assigned breach in the outside walls (later called Washington’s breach), then provided the cutting edge into the inner defence work, Fort Essex, and then into Bristol Cathedral itself in the heart of the city. From here they poured a destructive fire into:
... a Little Worck & a hows where the Enemy had a peece of canon and beat then from it
The surrounding Parliamentarians soon surrendered. After Bristol they moved with the King’s army to the siege of Gloucester where they took their turn in the rain sodden trenches. Here they are again recorded in the Royalist Ordnance Papers as being issued powder, match and ball.
With the failure of the siege of Gloucester they did not remain with the King’s field army but entered the Banbury garrison in early September 1643 where they were to remain until January 1644, when they were moved to the Evesham garrison. With the coming of the 1644 campaign season the regiment is next recorded in Mercurius Aulicus as being with Prince Rupert on 25th May at the storming of Stockport on his northern march to relieve York. It is probable, but not definite, that they fought at the Battle of Marston Moor. As Washington’s probably carried white flags, while there is no specific mention of Washington’s at Marston Moor, there were definitely royalist dragoons at the battle and there is no other obvious candidate for the dragoon standard captured there which was described in A Full Relation of the Late Victory thus:
A white Coronet of dragoones with a blew and white fringe in the midst of whereof is painted a roundhead face, and on its top the letter P. (which is conceived to signifie a Puritan) with a sword in a hand reaching from a cloud, with this mott, FIAT IUSTITIA. (Let Justice be Done)
It can be noted that during the previous year, just after Essex had relieved Gloucester, his men had captured two dragoon standards which are also provisionally linked to Washington’s Dragoones. Both were white with blue and white fringe; the first had a plain white field except for the canton with the cross of St. George and the second also had a white field with a red stream blazant from the top corner to the middle. Interestingly, both follow the Foote’s pattern of company identification and are square in dimensions, as was the colour captured at Marston Moor.
After Marston there is no specific information on the regiment’s location until we find them fighting at the Battle of Montgomery in Wales on 18th September 1644 in Lord Byron’s forces. Most of his force were regiments that had fought at Marston Moor and then been placed into garrison at Shrewsbury and Chester to recover their strength. Washington’s men appear to have suffered very severe loss at this royalist defeat and to have subsequently gone into garrison in Chester (where they may have already been after Marston Moor, being drawn out for Montgomery).
What is certain is that on 18th January 1645 they fought at the Battle of Christleton just outside of Chester alongside Prince Rupert’s Bluecoat Regiment of Foot (a regiment alongside who they seem to have often fought given how often they fought under Rupert’s command). This, unfortunately, proved to be another expensive defeat. The much depleted regiment marched out of the Chester garrison on 13th March under the command of Prince Maurice and subsequently fought under Rupert in the short campaign that culminated in the victory over Colonel Edward Massey’s forces at the Battle of Ledbury on 22nd April 1645. After this last victory the regiment remained in Worcester for the remainder of the war, stoutly defending the city during its two month siege at the end. Colonel Washington surrendered Worcester on 23rd July 1645 when his regiment marched out to its final reduction, thereby making it the longest extant royalist regiment in the First Civil War, it having first been raised back in September 1642.
The Name of the Regiment
According to the contemporary records, the title of the regiment formed by Colonel Ussher in September 1642 and surrendered by Washington in July 1645 varied. When originally formed it was known as both Colonel James Ussher’s Regiment of Dragoones and Prince Maurice’s Regiment of Dragoones. At the date of Colonel Ussher’s death at Litchfield in April 1643 it was clearly referred to as Colonel Ushers Regiment (Jeffery Glasier’s account). After this, with Henry Washington in place, it is only known as Colonel Henry Washington’s Regiment of Dragoones (Royalist Ordnance Papers). It is interesting to note though that even before April 1643 Washington was referred to as its commander, even though he was only its Lieutenant-Colonel. In Richard Bulstrode’s contemporary account of Edgehill he clearly refers to Washington, ... his Regiment of Dragoones, and again at the storming of Marlborough in December 1642. There would seem to be little doubt the Henry Washington was the dominant figure in the regiment.
Colonel James Ussher, was a professional Scottish soldier who had previously been the Major of the Earl of Barrimore’s regiment of Foot in 1640 and a half-pay officer on the Guildhall list in early 1642. While he certainly commanded the regiment in person at Cirencester on 2nd Februaury 1643 he does not appear to have lead it at Edgehill or Marlborough. He was killed leading the regiment at the storming of Litchfield Close on 20th April 1643.
Colonel Henry Washington, born in 1615, was the son of Sir William Washington of Packington, Leicestershire and Anne Villiers, half-sister of George, Duke of Buckingham. He appears to have had some continental military experience prior to 1640 by which time he was a Captain in the Earl of Northumberland’s Captains-General’s regiment on the Scottish border (Washington and the Earl of Northumberland were neighbours in Isleworth, Middlesex as were a number of officers of the Earl’s regiment). By early 1642 Washington was a Captain in the Lord Lieutenant’s (Monck’s) Regiment, due for service in Ireland. But before he departed for Ireland and while still resident at his home in Isleworth, Washington was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel to Ussher, a prestigious appointment for a 27 year old. He took full command of the regiment after Ussher’s death at Litchfield in April 1643 and remained at its head until the regiment’s demise in July 1646.
Washington distinguished himself at Edgehill and Bristol, and although he received no knighthood in recognition, (he did though later inherit his father’s), he was made governor of the vital City of Worcester in 1645 which he refused to surrender to the Scots. A well-known royalist, he was kept under close surveillance throughout the interregnum. With the Restoration he was made Major of the King’s Foot Guards, dying in 1664 aged 49. He left a wife, Elizabeth and four daughters. His widow later married Prince Rupert’s close friend, Colonel Samuel Sandys.
NB: Henry Washington was a cousin of the Washington who left for America.
Captain Henry Norwood, born in 1614 to the Norwood family of Bishopton in Worcestershire, was the longest serving Captain in the regiment, being commissioned to raise his company in Gloucestershire and Warwickshire in December 1642, yet was a still a Captain in the regiment at the surrender of Worcester in July 1646. This lack of promotion being despite having distinguished himself at Bristol, where he was wounded, back in July 1643. An active royalist in the Interregnum, he was imprisoned for five years in the Tower after being personally interrogated by Oliver Cromwell. At the Restoration he was made Major of Lord Rutherford’s Foot in 1661 and by 1666 he was Lieutenant-Governor of Tangier’s. He died in 1689.
Many other officers of the regiment were notable for being professional soldiers, appointed as such rather than just for hierarchical social reasons.
Captain Francis Gawdye from Norfolk had considerable continental military experience and had been a Lieutenant in Captain Urney’s company of Lord Grandison’s regiment in 1640. Wounded at Edgehill, although he was promoted Major, he soon after deserted to Parliament.
Captain William Tuke from Essex, who joined the regiment in early 1643 had been a Lieutenant to Captain William Monnings of the Marquis of Hamilton’s Regiment of Foot in 1640.
Major Nathaniel Grey, who replaced the wounded Major Hutchinson in February 1643, had been a fellow Captain of Washington’s back in 1642 in the Lord-Lieutenant’s (Monck’s) Regiment, destined for Ireland.
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Huddleston of Sawston in Cambridgeshire, who was appointed such at Washington’s promotion to Colonel in April 1643, had been a Captain in Sir Jerome Brett’s Regiment of Foot in 1640.
Regimental Organisation at Bristol, July 1643
There were seven full troops (dragoon regiment had troops not companies) according to the records of Prince Rupert’s engineer officer, Captain De Gomme. The first three belonged to the three field officers, Colonel Henry Washington, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Huddleston and Major Nathaniel Grey. The other four belonged to Captains Henry Colthorpe, Francis Morrison, William Tuke and Henry Norwood. We know at this date that the regiment was armed mainly with matchlock muskets, was equipped with powder bags and that it probably had red coats and white standards.
The Royalist Ordnance Papers (Ed. Dr. Ian Roy).
The Washington Family Papers at Sulgrove Manor, Northamptonshire.
Edgehill 1642, by Peter Young.
Royalist Officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660, By Dr. P. R. Newman.
Three separate articles from Partizan Press, English Civil War Notes and Queries:
Issue 4, Illustrations of Royalist Colours by Mike Seed.
Issue 6, John Lewis’s comments in Return Fire.
Issue 9, Stuart Reid’s article on Washington’s Dragoones.